Damascus Theatre Company’s production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, directed by Rachelle A. Horn, with musical direction by Marci Shegogue, is a fast-paced upbeat epic musical that will have you on your feet with the story of Jacob and his twelve sons. The sensational musical combination of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber will bring the audience a wonderful good time as the prodigal son rises and falls through fame and tragedy with a good lesson or two wrapped up in the cheery songs.
Set Designer Rachelle A. Horn lets us know immediately that we’re heading to Egypt with hand-painted hieroglyphics flanking either side of the proscenium arch and a three-tiered sand-bricked pyramid rising from the center of the stage. As the latter half of the show takes place in the desert country this seems to be more than an appropriate setting for the show. Costume Designer Lee Michele Rosenthal kicks things up a notch by showcasing several (22 to be exact) of the 29 different shades of the rainbow that appear in Joseph’s multi-colored coat in the outfits donned by the brothers. Each of the 11 brothers wears a brightly and uniquely colored t-shirt with a different colored long vest over top it. Rosenthal has designed a resplendent coat for the title character, making it out of a shiny gold fabric with multi-colored sleeves and trim.
Choreographer Megan May provides a few extra fun steps throughout the production as well. May offers her fancy footwork for a yee-hawin’ good time during “One More Angel in Heaven” where the brothers get to having a square-dancin’ ho-down where they kick up their feet and spin all around the stage. May’s finest work is seen during “Song of the King” where Pharaoh and his Ladies get to show off some spiffy dance moves. The Ladies (Julia Donato, Sam Kelvie, Nicki Mazza, and Megan May) have a perky cheerleader feel to their singing and dancing routine and the make that scene a little extra special with all their bubbly energy.
There is something to be said for a coat of many colors, but an actor of many characters is an extremely talented man. And you’ll find such a man in Jason Damaso who wears the mask of Jacob, the father figure, Potiphar, an Egyptian millionaire, a palace guard, and a few others in there as well. Damaso is a talented man with easy facial expressions transitioning from Jacob to Potiphar. As Jacob Damaso is refined and quiet, beside himself when his other sons break the news of Joseph’s demise in “One More Angel In Heaven.” But he slicks up and becomes a suave and sleazy fellow as he presents a tap routine as Potiphar, which is shared with The Narrator (Ellie Borzilleri) and becomes quite the comic moment.
We find a sweet simple voice in Joseph (Thomas Copas) and his eagerness to share his sound with the audience is more than apparent when he sings “Close Every Door.” Copas shares this song with the children’s chorus creating a beautiful harmony between his mature sound and their sweet dulcet tones.
The vocal talent is shared in the family as we hear a boisterous Levi (Harry Lemont) during “One More Angel In Heaven.” This number is made a huge success with the crazy oversized cactus cut-out and fence-post props dragged on stage, and the campiness of the song goes through the roof when Reuben (Jonathan Cagle-Mulberg) pulls out his harmonica and starts wailing along.
Naphtali ((Neal Davidson) steals the cake with his semi-French accent when leading the brothers in “Those Caanan Days” as he laments over the good old times. His woe is countered by the sprightly insanity of Simeon’s (Bryndon McNellage) upbeat calypso during “Benjamin’s Calypso.” These two brothers prove that the singing talent runs in the family of Jacob by belting their emotion filled songs to the audience with smiles, and frowns where appropriate.
Keep an eye out for the crazy singing dude that might just look like Elvis— if they’d given him some blue suede shoes instead of sandals— because Pharaoh (Bill Brown) is back in town. Brown rocks the cameo role with pelvic thrusting, side-burn growing pizzazz and he hops around like the king, uh-huh. This crazy man will have you having crazy dreams with his over-the-top performance.
The true star of the show is found in Ellie Borzilleri as The Narrator. Her voice is a powerful deep and well-ranged sound that easily belts its way to the audience. From the moment she takes the stage you know she means business as she catches the eyes of everyone in the audience to tell her story. Borzilleri brings a sassy modern approach to the narrator’s role, constantly changing outfits and accessorizing to fit the scene. We see her in a zebra jacket and hot pink top, glittery gold for Egypt and she’s even decked out in head-banger tye-dye for the big Act I finale. Borzilleri gets extremely involved in the lyrics she’s singing, especially the color count during “Joseph’s Coat.” Her powerful belts in “Pharaoh’s Story” and “Any Dream Will Do” are filled with passion. She nails the role on the head and is definitely the star of Egypt.
Running Time: One hour and 15 minutes with one intermission.
Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays through June 24, 2012 at The Arts Barn – located in The Kentlands – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394, or purchase tickets online.